COUPE ICARE 2017
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
The 2017 Coupe Icare has come to a close, celebrating its 44th year. This event was no exception to the usual masses of international pilots, aerial displays, costume flights and of course the chance for manufacturers to showcase their latest products.
The overarching theme from the manufacturers and technological developments was a continuation of what the industry has seen for the last 3 to 4 years - "lightweight is king." The demand for such equipment was perhaps most obviously highlighted late 2016 when stocks of lightweight sail cloth ran out, ceasing production for manufacturers while production caught up with demand. This year saw manufacturers continuing to expand the range of lightweight wings and harnesses from where they started as hike and fly, low performance setups into the realms of high performance competition setups.
Developments in profiles and overall performance led this years displays to blur the line between EN classes even further. In 2014 the release of the Carrera by Gin Gliders first saw editors and reviewers question the validity of the EN system in glider selection and now the industry seems to have accepted that classifying wings into 5 categories (A, B, C, D, CCC) is far too imprecise for such a complex sport. This year wings were advertised by their intended purpose and pilot demands, not single letters. (read The EN Classification System for more info)
We had the chance to sit down with Gin Seok Song and Michael Sigel from the development team to discuss what 2017-18 has in store for the manufacturer. 'No compromise performance' would have to be the mantra for the upcoming range of Gin gliders with the stand attracting the most interest from high level competition pilots gawking at the 4th rendition of the Genie Race harness with a further improvement in overall aerodynamic performance.
Still in production, the GTO3 will share the profile of the Boomerang 11 resulting in a substantial improvement in performance and stability on full bar compared with the GTO2. The 3 will be produced in a 'light not ultralight' specification suggesting it will be marketed to experienced XC competition pilots and not the niche hike and fly competition market like the Supair Wild or Omega Xalps seen in the 2017 RedBull X-Alps.
Nano 4 speedwing:
The Fluid 2's aggressive profile and low angle of attack made it potentially unstable for speedriding, where hard landings or low wing loadings resulted in aggressive collapses. The Nano 4 has been developed to fill the gap as a more forgiving wing better suited to speedriding. It also features an increased speed and glide range over the previous generation.
As can be expected from the French manufacturer, Supair's display was centered around light weight products. The Evo Lite, made it's first public appearance, the harness offers pilots a comfortable, no compromise upright harness with a lighter and more compact package than traditional harnesses. The Wild as produced for the 2017 X-Alps is nearing production with delivery expected in late October to early November. A non compressible, ultralight, certified back protector - the bubble bump has entered production proving to be the lightest certified back protector on the market (sans airbag). Non compressible airbags made a frequent appearance at the expo with manufacturers opting for superior safety and weight over compressibility.
Relatively new to the international market, Neo has developed a strong presence in the ultralight market in France, producing a sub 800 gram pod harness - the String + Coverleg. The specialised speedriding 'Body' harness, a super upright harness with a rigid back protector was presented and represents the most specialised speedriding/skiing harness produced to date.
Continuing the theme of specialised lightweight equipment, Skywalk presented the latest Range-Air harness, a 2kg full fairing pod harness aimed at the growing hike and fly competition market. The harness features class leading adjustability and an enormous 80L rear storage compartment. The entire nacelle is constructed from UL sailcloth resulting in an outstanding packing volume.
Gone are the days of overweight, oversize, calculator shaped variometers. In are solar powered, all-in-one instruments. The Sys'Evolution by Syride perfectly represented this trend with a slim form factor and a fixed e-ink display it presents the remedy for DIY kindle kits while integrating live 3D topograpy. The theme of bluetooth connectivity in flight instruments appears to have slowed, giving way to either standalone solar instruments or full featured devices such as the Naviter Oudie, a welcome change for pilots who don't wish to carry multiple battery packs or deal with connectivity errors mid flight.